Flow is defined as both a verb and noun:
- (of a liquid, gas, or electricity) move steadily and continuously in a current or stream. e.g. “from here the river flows north”
- go from one place to another in a steady stream, typically in large numbers. e.g. “people flowed into the huge courtyard”
- the action or fact of moving along in a steady, continuous stream. e.g. “the flow of water into the pond”
- a steady, continuous stream or supply of something. e.g. “a constant flow of people”
The second principle of VFQ can be the hardest for people to understand; optimize the flow of work end to end. Optimizing a system of work can be hard to define if we don’t understand what the system is meant to do. Over the years, we’ve found that teams can get quite good at organizing tasks and activities quickly. They can see how all of these work items ‘flow’ and start figuring out how to optimize a workflow by limiting work in progress, monitoring and managing queues, and experimenting with different ‘batch sizes’ of work. However, one of the hardest things for teams to do is to connect their tasks with bigger ideas, value propositions, products, services or priorities. It’s normally because these bigger, more abstract items are invisible, misunderstood or disconnected from teams.
Ultimately, flow is about the steady, continuous supply of value from idea to market.
Do you know how your tasks and work items connect to the flow of ideas to market? Are you measuring and managing the bigger ideas or just the work items?